Greta Garbo

I finally tried Twitter, and I found it distasteful. Other technologies and software I dislike include:

+ television
+ point and shoot digital cameras
+ cell phones
+ Blackboard
+ WebCT
+ Moodle
+ Twitter
+ Blogger
+ chat/talk
+ text messages
+ instant messages
+ iPods.

But I am literally repulsed by Twitter, which expects one to peer into a screen, decipher text messages from random persons, and follow up on mysterious references.

I am further repulsed by its marketing of ENMESHMENT and VOYEURISM as “connection.”

I understand the research value of the question Twitter wants people to answer, “What are you doing?” But I do not want to answer it, nor do I burn to know what other peoples’ answers to it are.

I would like at least some time during the day when a communication device is NOT jabbing at me for attention and a response.

I could see Twitter if I were a child and my mother were on it, though — then I could Tweet at her to let her know I was all right.

But imagine this scenario: you are at summer camp and your mother Tweets you hourly, and if you do not answer, phones the camp to ask whether you have been killed or something.

There is a lot to be said for being incognito. I suppose summer camps have rules for parents, which nowadays include restrictions on Tweeting.

For if I were expected to LISTEN to Twitter, to be called by it, or to search through it for pearls of wisdom, I think I would break all of my machines and go live in a hut somewhere.

There is entirely too much noise already. Tweeting is very stressful and should be paid overscale.


16 thoughts on “Greta Garbo

  1. All fair points and I’m not at all trying to convert you to twitter. But maybe the bigger problem isn’t twitter itself, or facebook, but the fact that all of these things can now be linked to your phone or blackberry. We’re being encouraged not to ever disconnect: you can link your twitter feed to facebook; both can be linked to your phone; on and on and on. As of now, that’s the barrier I’m resistant to crossing. Even though I spend way too much time reading blogs, sitting on facebook, and (newly) twittering, when I shut the computer and leave the house, that’s it. I also keep my blog separate from facebook, which is also separate from twitter. The only way I can be reached once the internet is down is if a person calls me and I do not guarantee that I’ll pick up. So to pick up your camp example: is the problem twitter or is the problem that the child can’t leave the internet at home?

  2. I Love my I-Pod Shuffle (no screen, just plays music and podcasts) and my digital camera. But above all these, I am totally in love with my Kindle.
    What I don’t care for are slippery devices like cell phones and I-Pods. They make me queasy.
    And Twitter is something I know I would not like. Facebook: well, it is a good way to keep in touch. Takes some getting used to.

  3. Frog Princess — you’re right, of course, although what I note is that if you don’t do these things a LOT then they are not interesting.

    What I really dislike about Twitter is: I don’t want to say what I am doing, or know what other random people are doing, and I do not want to read incomplete sentences. And I have this blog and my research blog to post interesting news items to. So Twitter seems redundant and irritating, sort of like the worst of all worlds.

    Facebook, I use for people I know IRL, and not all of them do I know well enough to let them know about the blogs. And I’m not sure I like it. The blogs, they’re a totally different animal. I like them, but spend “too much” time in them because for me they are a serious writing and thought exercise, not a social site. I can’t see what Twitter is really for.

    I could get into a Kindle and possibly an iPod shuffler. I want an SLR digital camera.

  4. what I note is that if you don’t do these things a LOT then they are not interesting.

    I hadn’t made this connection with regard to Facebook and so on before but… wow, you’re right.

    Some – what do you call them – social spaces? I don’t know the right generic term – but they do this I think by design, because… because if you suck up all a person’s attention you’ve won. And also you can monetize it by advertising, but amazingly enough for some people who set up internet time-sinks, it’s not even about that. Yet they think nothing of demanding simply extraordinary amounts of a person’s time.


  5. Yes — it’s about “being popular” or something, even more than about making money, and of course, I am convinced it is about enmeshing with a site/a machine more than it is about “connecting” with people.

    (Although that “sharing” thing I do sort of like — people with tastes different from, but related to mine, find things I wouldn’t, but that I am glad to discover…)

  6. “Enmeshment” is a good way to describe these seemingly millions of ways of being “connected,” few of which provide any meaningful connection and most of which duplicate others but are somehow supposed to be essential to have in tandem with the others. They collectively seem to say that we must all be constantly in communication with one another, devote significant portions of our day to this communication, and be constantly available for this communication.

    Sometimes I see people chatting on the phone or texting while doing the shopping or working out or driving or even in the library, and I want to ask, “can you not for one second not be ‘connecting’? Can you not spend one second in silence with your own self?” Maybe they really can’t?

    I think of most of these technology things as toys. They can be fun, one or two can even become important, but I don’t need all of the toys all of the time.

  7. Amen to this post. Pretty much how I feel. I really cannot for the life of me figure out what Twitter could possibly be for, what people do with it that they aren’t already doing with Facebook and blogs and with IM and email.

    It is aptly named, however. It’s a twitchy, twitter-y way of “communicating”.

  8. I haven’t succumbed to it yet, as my real life, FB and blogs take up all of my time. But I constantly find myself wondering, because of John McCain. If you remember at some point in the lection it came out that he had never used email or the internet himself. I thought about that for awhile and figured that he made a cost benefit analysis at some point where he concluded that it couldn’t become that important, and why invest the time at his age for something like that. I wonder where that line will be for me? I have a feeling of concern that when I decide to stop developing technologically I am making myself into a dinosaur…

  9. Twitchy, twittery, yes, and they can’t spend any time alone without noise, and they have to chat … chat I really find intrustive, too.

    I’m not not developing technologically and it is why I looked into Twitter and creating and tinyurls just this week … and I write good HTML and want to know XML and UNIX and LINUX … it’s the proliferation of these distracting and irritating toys, like the sons of television or something, that drive me around the bend.

    McCain, well, there was this 97 year old in Spain who just died, she started blogging at 95 and won an award for it, meet the PM and so on … and was on FB too, more recently, to agitate on behalf of the elderly.

  10. What I don’t like is being segregated because of my age. Most old people accept being shunted aside with great docility.

  11. Talk about measuring out one’s life in coffee spoons. TV’s fine in moderation (we have digital cable) and I have a digital point-and-shoot, but am open to getting an SLR sometime. Blogger is fine for me.

    I don’t have a cellular telephone. I find it unnecessary. I also have no use for texting or instant messaging. (Once I saw some guy twiddling his thumbs upon a small device. I thought he was playing a video game.)

    I see Moodle, WebCT, and Blackboard have to do with e-learning. I can’t say anything on those.

    I haven’t gotten the hang of the iPod, and I prefer CDs anyway.

  12. An IRL friend told me yesterday she was surprised I didn’t have an iPhone, because I am so “techie.”

    I may be able to write a little code and want to write more, but this doesn’t make me gadget minded, or attracted to glitzy software.

    But she thinks I am “techie” because I am on Facebook and can make what I would call real class web pages without using all that clunky software.

  13. Oh Prof. Zero, I am so with you on this one. I have such a love-hate relationship with all of these technologies — most of all with email, now an ancient technology — but Twitter appears to be the apotheosis of moronic distraction. I want to write pieces that convey gravitas, contemplation; not a “tweet.”

    Wonder if this response is still under 140 characters?

  14. I think people use Twitter to talk to themselves. One person I am following puts his to-do lists up and his notes on what he is writing. It seems that this is how he organizes his day. He is working at home with small kids, so when they wake up and need something, he tweets what he was doing at the time so as not to lose his train of thought/forget what his stopping point was. I also think people use Twitter to blow off steam.

    I seem to be using it to post articles and stuff I want to post to Facebook, at times I don’t want to log on to Facebook because I don’t want to be found there by people who want my attention. But I could just as well post those to Zotero or something, since really I am posting them for myself.

    I sort of like the Facebook status reports because my Facebook friends are people I know. But knowing what random Tweeters are doing, I find boring.

  15. I use Twitter to:
    follow local journalists because our local media is crumbling so I get scoops on news;
    follow academics who are innovating with social media because they post links to articles or blogposts of interest to me;
    chat with friends who, like me, have closed their Facebook accounts because of too many “so-and-so has just posted a picture” notifications;
    get answers within minutes from people about technology glitches;
    follow interesting writers who are charming and entertaining in their twittering;
    backchannel chat about conferences during the conference;
    get alerts to events of interest to me from organizations I follow for that purpose such as local arts organizations or activist groups (and I much prefer that to the daily email spam from similar places);
    pass on links I know will be of interest to my particular group of followers because that is why they follow me and I try to respect them by not tweeting every single thing I am doing.

    What I don’t use Twitter for, nor do I follow people who use it for this: to tell people “what am I doing at this moment” a million times a day.

    It’s like any communication medium: it’s value to you depends on what you want to use it for. If you don’t like how someone tweets, don’t follow them. There are literally about 3 people I actually wanted to have contact with on Facebook, and nobody else I know uses it. Whereas with Twitter, there are quite a few people with whom I have relationships about topics of mutual interest, including people in France, Spain, Canada and various parts of the U.S. These are not people who read my blog or would really care to read my blog; these are people with whom I communicate about very specific things. I have made a separate account for the kind of inane pop culture conversations that I only share with people also interested in that stuff, and an account for my professional “serious” stuff. Works for me!

  16. I know that is what one is “supposed” to use it for but I find it too twitchy to be attractive for this. But remember I also have never been able to tolerate television and do not mind e-mail circulars, so this really just comes down to a question of taste. I like web pages that aggregate information, but I dislike web discussion forums … although I do like conversations in comments threads on blog posts or news articles. The other thing that puts me off about Twitter is that it doesn’t look pretty, so it jangles my head.

    I set FB not to send me those notifications, and not to send out notifications about me beyond my circle — and not to let friends of friends see me. I’m about to turn off more of its features. Yet FB is social whereas Twitter would be about news and research type topics. And it does not have games or chat. So I can see the attraction, which is why I have been looking into it.

    I am talking about the nature of the medium itself, not about the good content that I know can be found on Twitter. It is really a question of taste: I do not like the 140 character “tweet,” or the idea that one should be “tweeting” for that matter, and the *LAST* thing I would want to do during a lecture would be to “tweet” comments about it or have to listen to any “tweets” about it … I would rather listen and take notes, and talk afterwards.

    But note that I hate all multitasking. I hate call waiting, hate being asked to chat while I am writing e-mail, hate doing 2 things at once generally, do not like to eat while watching television, talk on the phone while race walking, have my cell phone ring, etc. That’s just me.

    It has to do in part with not having been allowed to do homework in peace and so on as a child, constantly being interrupted by someone’s usually faux emergency — I have RAGE about this and the nature of Twitter activates the same rage. The idea of having people “tweet” at me and that it might be part of my job to listen to “tweets” makes me feel utterly desperate — I mean, if I were in a field that required Twitter, I would quit the profession.


    Also one’s general situation matters. If there were a Twitter conversation on a research topic of interest to me and I knew about it, sure, I’d listen in if I had time. But for me, tech support is only a phone call away. On the other hand, it’s 50 miles to my nearest good library in field, and just getting normal access to books and journals is a much greater priority than finding interesting Twitter threads. I can see being in a work group that started a Twitter thread, but that would be different.

    Another question of taste is, I’d just rather wait to have a whole conversation than go back and forth in 140 character, poorly spelled sound bytes that come from here and there. It just seems SO time consuming, exhausting, irritating. But remember, I work in a very high traffic office with a lot of noise and low level interruptions. I also have to deal with a lot online student workbooks, replete with fragmentary sentences and sound bytes. A set of fragments coming across Twitter could be interesting if I had a more contemplative space in which to work, but I do not.

    Also remember, it is only one of the modern things I dislike — look at the list above. I also don’t want an iPhone or an iPod, although I do want that Acer mini laptop and a LINUX box. And if I get a LINUX box, I am sure I will end up in a Twitter stream about running it.

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